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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Beat No. 13 Buckeyes At The Buzzer 82-79

by on January 25, 2018 10:20 PM

The ironic thing about Tony Carr's winner was that it came about a second too early. A dozen feet or so sooner than it had to.

It wasn't a bad shot, but it could have been better.

Which is kind of like Penn State basketball's season. The Nittany Lions sitting at 4-5 in Big Ten play, knowing all too well that record could read a lot more like 6-3 or better, but it isn't. In and of itself Penn State is in the midst of a season that isn't bad, it just could be better.

So it's a mixed bag unpacking the Nittany Lions' Thursday night 82-79 win. Penn State came out firing, hitting its first five shots from beyond the arc, never really looking back. The only thing keeping Ohio State in the game, its own solid offensive output following the initial onslaught. By the half the Buckeyes had regained their footing and trailed by just a point.

In the second half Penn State made its first four from beyond the arc yet again, a 10-of-13 shooting clip from deep that would have given any team a run, let alone the Buckeyes. Tony Carr was clinical, and the return of Josh Reaves from an academic issue was a spark Penn State needed. It was hard to say if the Nittany Lions were going to win, but all of the pieces were falling into place.

And then Ohio State made its run, cutting a 13-point lead with just under eight minutes to go into a single-digit deficit.

The lead shrank, and shrank. Penn State's chances, a team plagued by last minute miscues, shrinking with it.

It seemed almost too predictable in the game's final minutes as Penn State struggled to score and Keita Bates-Diop put the Buckeyes on his back that this would turn into yet another defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

It seemed almost certain as Bates-Diop nailed a deep three to tie the game with five seconds to go that defeat would wait until overtime to make its inevitable appearance.

But then Tony Carr took the ball, dribbled just past mid-court and heaved a shot that didn't have to come that early.

And it banked in.

The win gives Penn State a rare victory over a ranked opponent, and a highly valued one over a major Big Ten team on the road. The Nittany Lions would in any other circumstance be rejoicing a marquee victory. They should either way.

In reality, though, the win is a bittersweet one for a program that has seen more than its fair share of mistakes and bumps in the road. This team, as it showed on Thursday night, is talented enough to make the tournament, and yet is almost guaranteed not to be in that conversation. Tony Carr's 28 points coupled with 29 more from Lamar Stevens and Shep Garner would prove to be a lot to handle for any team in the Big Ten.

Instead it marks a high point during a season of so much "almost." 

And there is nothing wrong with that, but much like Carr's shot, Penn State's season hasn't been bad, but it could have been so much better.

But after all of the heartbreak, the Nittany Lions will take it, and probably deserved it too.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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